Shanti Sadan and Self-Knowledge name
Vol.68 No.4 Autumn 2017

ACHIEVING INNER STILLNESS

Everything in nature is on the move: the earth gliding and spinning through space; the bemusing choreography of the sub-atomic world; the hidden systems in the body; the continuous generation of thought. ‘The tree of man was never quiet’, said the poet, A E Housman.

Yet those who pursue the science of meditation tell of an inner transformation leading from restlessness and distraction to the raptness of one-pointed concentration, and beyond that, to identification with the pure Consciousness and Being that underlies thinking, and is motionless, undivided and without limit. In its chapter on meditation, the Bhagavad Gita advises: ‘keeping the mind established in the Self, let one not think of anything’. What does this mean, and to what extent can the would-be meditator expect to free the mind from the thought of any thing?

The mind is supported and revealed by a deeper Reality which transcends change and limitation, and is of the nature of perfect peace and fulfilment. This is the ultimate subject and pivot of our experience, in relation to which the mind itself is objective. This higher subjectivity is the cause of our capacity to view and assess our thoughts, and to detect their passing character. Unlike our personality, or even our individuality, this continuous awareness transcends the processes of nature.

Why do we fail to experience this true Self? It is largely because the life of action, driven by the incessant stream of our thoughts, holds our attention. Unless we are informed about the possibility of a higher Self-knowledge, we live as if identified with the body, mind, intellect, and, to some extent our possessions and achieve-ments. We naturally feel we are part of the world around us, and that this is where satisfaction may be found. Life goes on as if there were no deeper Self.

It is only when we start to feel seriously the limitations of our human situation and long for a means to ‘go beyond sorrow’, that the teachings on Self-knowledge make their appeal. Our suffering is the incentive to transcend suffering. It is then that our thirst for expansion may lead us to apply our powers of creativity and penetration to the field of our own mind.

We discover that the active mind, however intelligent, will never get beyond the surface values and shortcomings of our everyday life. But the quietened mind, seeking to focus on its interior source, will gain intimations of the deeper presence. The stiller its state and the steadier its focus, the deeper and more illumined will be our Self-knowledge.

This development is not dependent on the mind’s absolute stillness. What is necessary is a mind in harmony with the deeper Reality, as our true Self and as that which underlies the whole cosmos, whose nature is indicated in the classical texts. This means a mind rooted in peace, harmlessness, thirst for illumination, and feeling its fundamental oneness with all. Such a mind is conducive to the manifestation of higher knowledge. In common with all the spiritual traditions, many verses from the Gita recommend the seeker to fill the mind with thoughts of the supreme Being, as That which pervades the inner and outer world. Such thoughts them-selves ease the heart and dispel fear and restlessness.

Once we have embraced the idea of this deeper Reality and presence within our own being, and our mind is suitably receptive, its light and peace can manifest so potently as to outweigh completely the drawing power of the thoughts and pictures that come and go in our mind. With our thoughts subdued, our mind is as if still and free of limitations. But even if some thought currents remain, they are eclipsed by this higher awareness and pass on without absorbing our attention.

Those who have awakened to the Self are no longer identified with the mind, but use the mind as an instrument or servant. One who is thus awakened is a neutral witness of the movements of thought, knowing that mental activity is part of the realm of nature. Unlike the mind and the world, our true Self is never on the move, and, as the Gita teaches, is to be known as ‘everlasting, all-pervading, stable, firm and eternal’.